Inside a major foodservice company’s seafood sourcing

Published on
December 9, 2015

Aramark, the USD 15 billion global foodservice company and facilities manager, recently said it will transition to 100 percent sustainably sourced canned skipjack and albacore tuna in the U.S. SeafoodSource recently talked with Scott Barnhart, senior vice president of global supply chain and procurement for Aramark, about the Philadelphia, Penn.-based company’s sustainable seafood sourcing plans, along with other seafood initiatives.

Blank: Aramark recently switched to MSC-certified tuna. Which other sustainable seafood items does the company carry?

Barnhart: Aramark recently announced a complete transition to sustainably sourced canned skipjack and albacore tuna in the U.S. by April 1, 2016. This transition is the next significant step in meeting our sustainable seafood commitment -- to purchase sustainably-sourced seafood in the U.S. by 2018.

Blank: What are Aramark's sustainability goals? What percentage of your seafood is certified sustainable?

Barnhart: Our goal is to purchase local, seasonal and responsibly-raised, grown and sourced products whenever possible. In 2008, we committed to purchasing sustainability sourced seafood in the U.S. by 2018, in partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program. As of October, 2014, 99 percent of our contracted frozen finfish purchases met the Seafood Watch “Best Choice” and “Good Alternative” recommendations.

The frozen finfish category represents about 50 percent of our total contracted seafood purchases, and our canned tuna transition represents 100 percent of Aramark’s contracted canned tuna purchases in the U.S. Canned tuna represents about 34 percent of our total contracted seafood purchases.

Blank: What are the biggest challenges in the seafood industry?

Barnhart: Our clients and customers continue to seek transparency in regard to the source of their seafood – asking where it comes from, how it is caught, aquaculture fishing practices and even about labor practices associated with the fishing industry. Aramark is committed to advancing transparency as part of our responsible sourcing program, through engagement with our suppliers, industry discussion forums and other public advocacy about sustainability issues related to seafood.

Blank: What types of seafood are your customers asking for more in recent months, whether it is a particular species or a certain designation, such as "sustainable", "local" or "trash fish"?

Barnhart: Consumers today are more aware and interested in understanding the origin of their food and expect companies to have responsible and transparent purchasing practices. We’ve seen a continued increase in the interest for local and sustainable products from clients and customers across many sectors – higher education, K-12, corporate dining, sports venues and others.

Blank: How has your seafood sourcing changed in recent months?

Barnhart: We work closely with current and potential suppliers to develop options that help us meet our responsible sourcing objectives, and help clients and suppliers meet theirs, such as making sustainably sourced seafood products available. On occasion, in order to complete a transition to a sustainable product, we consider new supplier partnerships to meet our goals.

Blank: What are some top foodservice industry trends that are leading your customers to use more seafood? How much more seafood are they using compared to a year ago?

Barnhart: More and more, our customers tell us they are being careful about what they eat and that they want to make better lifestyle choices, such as including more fish in their diets. The average American eats 14.5 pounds of fish and shellfish every year, a double-digit increase since 1980. Seafood’s popularity has surged for a number of reasons. Seafood is widely available, easy to prepare, versatile and healthy.

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